The Eight Stages of Relationships: Part Two
This is part two of a series on the predictable stages of a relationship. To read part one, click here.
How a couple negotiates the fourth stage — Power Struggle — determines what stages they will encounter next. I cannot stress enough how important it is to negotiate the power struggle stage successfully in order to keep your relationship alive and thriving.
At this point in your relationship you will follow one of two tracks, and I will be describing both. A couple who has negotiated the power struggle successfully will most likely follow Track One, which I will cover in this article. Couples who did not negotiate the power struggle successfully and who require work in their relationship are more likely to follow Track Two, to be covered next week.
Track One: What Happens When the Power Struggle Is Over?
Stage Five: Growth
It takes a lot of soul-searching, self-discovery and deepenedcommunication to break out of the power struggle and move beyond it. It also takes redefining the relationship, firming up some of the relationship roles while loosening others. Through all of this, both partners must grow or the changes will simply not be adequate for the relationship to thrive. And those who are committed to their relationships do grow, no matter what may be required of them.
When it starts and how long it lasts: Growth is an ongoingstate of a relationship, but it will be more intense at some times than at others. After a power struggle, the couple will experience a “growth spurt,” a period of intense growth lasting from six months to a year or longer.
The joy: The joy is in the results of the growth. The more each of you grows, the more intimacy you are able to share with oneanother. The more intimate you become, the more in love you become. The more love you feel for each other, the more joyful you become.
The stumbling block: Growth can be terrifying and confusing.You may know what you need to change in your behavior, but you may be afraid to make the changes. Or you may have no idea how to make the changes. The same thing may apply to your partner.
What to do: Find a way to grow — both together and separately– and infuse your relationship with new life. Think of this period as your second chance to create the relationship you have always wanted with a partner you have always wanted to be with.
Stage Six: The Second Honeymoon
It’s not that there will never be hard work or hard times again, but you have reached a new stage in your relationship — a stage where you cherish and treasure each other, appreciate the good and accept the bad. You have bonded, connected, joined. This is what love is all about.
When it starts and how long it lasts: This stage startssometime after the power struggle is over and can be intermittent or ongoing. In the best possible scenario it will last until the end.
The joy: It is almost all joy — the joy of connection at alevel you have either always dreamed about or could never imagine. It is a joy to share your life with your partner in a deep way.
The stumbling block: The stumbling block is that you don’texpect your connection to be broken. It is solid yet flexible now and can allow for much stress and change. Yet, as you both are human, it will be broken at times.
What to do: Remember what brought you to this wonderful placeand keep tending to your relationship by continuing to communicate and grow.
Stage Seven: ‘The Child’
A “child” can be real children or it can be an idea, business or passionate involvement on which both of you are focused. This can be as simple as the value you place on living your life as a couple, or as intricate as being involved in a cause or a political campaign. Or, of course, it can be parenthood with all of its complexities.
When it starts and how long it lasts: Ideally the couple has a child only when they are through the power struggling and are into the second honeymoon. But for many couples, this stage happens throughout the relationship.
The joy: The joy is in sharing a third entity you createdtogether or are both passionate about. The joy is leaning and working together. The joy is also seeing different aspects of each other as you get passionately involved in the “other” entity.
The stumbling block: The stumbling block will be learning towork together and becoming a team. It can be hard to share responsibility. Often both partners will think their way of doing something is the right way.
What to do: Joyfully embrace the “other” involvement. It willbring a deeper dimension to your relationship and bring you closer together. Learn to work together, negotiate and compromise.
Stage Eight: Life Crisis
Very few people live a charmed life without crises. Whether it is a job or career change, or a move to a new city or country, whether forced or willingly chosen, change feels like life crisis. Whether it is declining health or a sudden illness of your spouse or another loved one, serious health issues can be life crises. If your property or your financial situation is threatened, dealing with and resolving the issues can feel like a life crisis. If you have far too many demands on you and not enough time or space to fulfill them, you may feel as if you are in a life crisis. What affects you deeply affects your relationship.
When it starts and how long it lasts: Life crises can happen at any time, but hopefully can get handled in a timely manner andnot overtake the relationship. Life crises can also happen more than once in the course of a relationship as the couple grows and develops and matures together.
The joy: If there is joy in life crisis it is that by now youshould be able to mobilize quickly as a team to deal with whatever situation arises. Often there is also a deeper bonding that occurs in crisis — and that can be a nourishing kind of joy as well.
The stumbling block: The nature of crisis is that there aremany stumbling blocks, not the least of them being one or bothpartners being less available to the other for a time. This can be extreme, as with an illness, or temporary and somewhat mild, as with financial worries or starting a business. The difficult part is not having each other to always count upon just when you need each other most.
What to do: As much as possible, stay connected. And as much as possible, work on looking at the positive aspects of your life.Work on being grateful for all that is yours in spite of crisis.This will help you both to get through the crisis more positively.
Beyond Stage Eight: Life Happens
What happens after your relationship has touched on all eight stages? Life happens to a more mature, seasoned and hopefully happy and vibrant couple. You move together and separately through your life and know when you need to connect and when you need time apart. You know how to meet each other’s needs and seek increasingly deeper connection. Your relationship is the rock, the wellspring of peace in your life.
Master Certified Relationship Coach Rinatta Paries coaches singles to attract and build loving, fulfilling, long-term relationships. For more information about Coach Rinatta Paries and the myriad of services she has created for singles, visit her Web site, WhatItTakes.com.